Horses like Sizing Europe certainly don’t come around too often and when the veteran performed poorly at Clonmel recently his trainer, Henry de Bromhead, must have wondered, at least momentarily, if he might ever be lucky enough to come across one like him again.
But no sooner had that door closed, perhaps only temporarily, but another opened in the shape of the impressive de Bromhead-trained Shanahan’s Turn.
It would, of course, be more than premature to say Shanahan’s Turn is the next Sizing Europe, but you couldn’t blame anyone for thinking it is at least very much a possibility.
Of course Shanahan’s Turn has a long, long way to go before comparisons can become in any way realistic.
For instance, Sizing Europe was a far better hurdler. The last time he ran over flights, fourth to Solwhit at Punchestown in May of 2009, he was rated 157. That was actually 10lbs below a career high of 167.
Shanahan’s Turn had no such pretensions as a hurdler and was just 135 when ending last season with a fifth placing behind Beat That in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown festival in April.
Prior to that he was only eighth to Faugheen at Cheltenham and, indeed, his single success over flights came in a maiden at Leopardstown at Christmas.
The ex-winning point-to-pointer was second in the only bumper he contested and only ran four times in all over hurdles.
The kindness in not over-racing him last season, however, was more than wise, is now bearing fruit, and already one has to rate Shanahan’s Turn a far better chaser, even after just two pops over fences, than a hurdler.
He made an excellent start in a two and a half mile beginners chase at Punchestown last month, jumping for fun to slam the well-regarded Noel Meade-trained Wounded Warrior by almost four lengths.
There is a world of difference, however, between a beginners chase, when he really had only one serious rival, and moving into Grade 2 company, as he did at Punchestown last Sunday.
You couldn’t be absolutely certain that the soft ground there would play to his strengths, nor that stepping up to two miles and six would be ideal and he was facing some smart oppositiont.
That Shanahan’s Turn, under a fine drive from Jonathan Burke, came through with flying colours was impressive and deeply encouraging.
He’s just a great jumper, touch-wood, seems to have a high cruising speed, but what essentially got you out of your seat was the way he behaved from the final fence to the line.
Shanahan’s Turn got in tight to the obstacle, but it didn’t stop him and it is no exaggeration to say he seemed to be stronger in the last 100 yards than at any time in the contest.
He is what Dermot Weld might describe as “a stayer with speed.” Wouldn’t you just love to see him crossing swords with the likes of The Tullow Tank and Valseur Lido? Now that would be mighty revealing.
I thought that was a rather tame effort by the champion hurdler, Jezki, at Punchestown on Sunday.
He seemed to go particularly well for Mark Walsh, jumped beautifully and showed no tendency, as he had done in the past, to edge left at some of the flights.
Walsh, it seemed to me, made his move at exactly the right time and when Hurricane Fly was sloppy at the second last that should have been the clincher.
And yet, by the time they went past the post, Hurricane Fly was well on top and left real question marks against Jezki.
After all, Jezki was beaten by a horse that will be 12 come January 1 and surely cannot be regarded as a realistic Champion Hurdle candidate.
Willie Mullins unwrapped yet another potential flying machine in Bordini to beat Christy Roche’s heavily backed newcomer, Falcon Crest, in the bumper at Punchestown.
All the word was that Falcon Crest was superior to his stable companion, The Big Apple, who won a Naas bumper the weekend before by 12 lengths.
Falcon Crest was a big morning price gamble from 6-1 down and left the gate as a 6-4 shot, but Bordini was far too good for him.
Bordini was making his racecourse debut, having run in just one point-to-point at a venue called Maralin in March, when third of six finishers.
There were only eight runners in all and the two that beat Bordini were called Mahler Lad and Bellshill.
Now Bellshill has, of course, also found his way to the Mullins yard and sported the Andrea and Graham Wylie colours when scoring narrowly at Thurles on Thursday. Mahler Lad hasn’t been seen since March and is now in the care of Donald McCain.
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